When the King Comes Home

When the King Comes Home

4.5 2
by Caroline Stevermer

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When the King IV comes home . . .

Good King Julian of Aravis has been dead for two hundred years, but his kingdom still misses him. The current occupant of the throne is old and witless and has no heir. The true ruler of Aravis is the powerful Prince Bishop, who controls both church and state.

When the King comes home, all wishes will be granted.

Hail Rosmer


When the King IV comes home . . .

Good King Julian of Aravis has been dead for two hundred years, but his kingdom still misses him. The current occupant of the throne is old and witless and has no heir. The true ruler of Aravis is the powerful Prince Bishop, who controls both church and state.

When the King comes home, all wishes will be granted.

Hail Rosmer wants to be an artist-not an ordinary artist, but a great artist, as great as the fabled Maspero, who painted the famous Archangel altarpiece in the Palace of Aravis and made Good King Julian's crown.

When the King comes home, all dreams will be made real.

One day, Hail sees a man catching fish from the river and eating it raw. The man's clothes are antique in fashion. He looks exactly like King Julian of Aravis. And there begins an adventure that takes Hail and her enigmatic companion from palace to wilderness to battlefield and teaches her, and the rest of Aravis, what happens when the King comes home in sober reality.

Editorial Reviews

Hail Rosamer leaves her home in Neven to become apprenticed to Madame Carriera, an acclaimed artist in the city of Aravis. Hail is not one to follow in the footsteps of others and finds herself obsessed with the artwork of Gil Maspero, a famous artist who lived during the reign of the legendary Good King Julian. In her spare time, Hail studies Maspero's most prized works and in her efforts to learn his craft she creates a copy of the siege medal. A fellow student of Hail's discovers what she has done and twists her creation into a fraudulent crime. To avoid being jailed, Hail runs away and then the adventure really begins. An evil sorceress has brought King Julian and his champion, Istvan, back from the dead in an effort to control them and, therefore, control Aravis. Hail encounters and befriends both Istvan and Julian after running away from Madame Carriera's atelier. Through her knowledge of Maspero, young Hail is able to save the kingdom and return the dead souls back to their place of rest. The author excels in combining the elements of magic and art. The most descriptive moments consist of the details of Hail's apprenticeship and the depiction of Maspero's artistic philosophy. Although at times some characters seem stereotypical and some events are resolved a bit too neatly, the novel is a delight. The plot moves at a brisk pace, and Hail is definitely a strong heroine. Tamora Pierce fans will relish Hail's independent spirit and willingness to defy all odds. A fun-filled read. KLIATT Codes: SA�Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Tor, 236p.,
— Ginger Armstrong
The brevity of this novel that combines fantasy with historical fiction disguises the depth of the author's ability to craft a story through lyrical writing, building deliberately to a satisfying, thought-provoking whole. Beginning slowly, Stevermer introduces the main character, Hail Rosamer, an apprentice to a master artist. Hail finds herself drawn to the centuries-old work of Maspero—artist, alchemist, and architect—who believed in incorporating the blood of his subjects into his work to represent more fully their souls. The blood used in his metal castings enables the evil sorcerer Red Ned first to call second-in-command Istvan's soul and then King Julian's from the dead. The legend of the long-dead King Julian tells of prosperity that will return to the land of Aravis when he comes back. The legend's powers will allow Red Ned to use King Julian to dethrone the present king and gain control of Aravis. When Hail uses her skill as an artist to cast a charmed crown with a stronger connection to Julian, the ties to Red Ned are broken. Here the writing picks up speed, building suspense and culminating in a final battle in which Hail and her supporters fight Red Ned for Julian's soul. The powerful impact of this novel lies in its statements about the act of creating art. Hail realizes that not just the soul of the subject lives in a work of art; the artist abides there as well. "The Crown created me just as much as I created it. How could I look at it and doubt that I had something to offer the world?" Magic is not present in the spells and chants in this novel but in the act of creation itself. This book is for fantasy fans and for anyone with an artistic soul. VOYA CODES:5Q 4P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2000, Tor, 240p, . Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer: Susan Smith SOURCE: VOYA, April 2001 (Vol. 24, No.1)
Library Journal - Library Journal
When Hail Rosamer, a wool merchant's daughter-turned-artist's apprentice, encounters a stranger who looks exactly like a portrait of the long-dead King Julian, her life takes an odd turn, leading her and her new companion from city to palace to battlefield--and beyond. Stevermer's first novel takes place in the fictitious Renaissance city of Aravis, ruled by a manipulative Prince-Bishop, the true power behind a witless and aging king. The author's attention to period detail and her winsome first-person narrative make this a good selection for most fantasy collections. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
New fantasy from the author of A College of Magicks (1994). In the middle-European kingdom of Lidia, ruled by the prince-bishop during the incapacity of old, ailing King Corin, young Hail Rosamer travels to the city Aravis to be apprentice in the great artist Madame Carriera's atelier. During her studies, Hail becomes fascinated by the artist Maspero, who lived two centuries ago in the time of the still-revered Good King Julian. Then, falsely accused by a jealous rival, with no ready means of proving her innocence, Hail flees towards home. On the road she meets a strange figure, confused and starving yet richly dressed—and bearing an uncanny resemblance to Good King Julian! The prince-bishop's priest-wizard, Rigo, removes a spell from the man—and he turns out to be Istvan Forest, Julian's champion. Istvan pleads for an exorcism, knowing that the body's previous owner's soul has been ejected in order to insert Istvan's. Why? Well, red-haired necromancer Dalet, working for Red Ned, a rival to the throne, attempted to recall Julian—he would be subject to her control—planning to seize the throne on a wave of popular acclaim. But Dalet brought back the wrong man. The prince-bishop wants the matter kept under wraps, so Istvan flees with Hail intending to prevent Dalet from bringing Julian back. Hail, meanwhile, becomes convinced that Maspero and his works are the key to the entire situation. Beautifully rendered, if ultimately promising more than it delivers: still, fantasy of a high order.Asaro, Catherine THE QUANTUM ROSE Tor (400 pp.) Dec. 2000

Product Details

Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
Publication date:
A College of Magics Series
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
1.11(w) x 1.11(h) x 1.11(d)

Read an Excerpt


(In which I am born into a family of wool merchants.)

I was born on the coldest day of the year. When the midwife handed me to my father, he said, "Hail the newcomer! Hardy the traveler who ventures forth on such a day."

After four sons, my family was pleased to have a daughter at last. My father persuaded my mother that I should be named Hail, to commemorate the welcome I'd been given. My name is a greeting, dignified and sober, not a form of bad weather.

My family is in the wool trade and are as hardworking as they are prosperous. My earliest memory is of chasing my brothers through the wool market, a maze of bundles and bales, a mob of people haggling. Fleece in every shade from purest white to dusty black, in every stage, from unwashed and full of burrs to neat bales ready to be shipped downriver—all were there in plenty, for Neven was a busy place in those days, the most prosperous town in northwestern Galazon.

I am not too old to travel home to Neven, even yet. That day will come, but I could still make a journey of moderate length, given a proper escort and sufficient preparation. I don't choose to visit there, though I have no doubt my brothers' families would welcome me. I'd rather remember it as it was, a clean an quiet town. My memories range beyond the town itself, from the heights where the flocks spent the summer in wild and open country above the forests that filled the crooked valleys below. Stands of the great old trees were cut even in my youth, sent down the river tied in rafts to feed the shipwrights of Shene. Since then, I'm told, the forests have been much reduced. (I don't wish to see it now.) Neven was always a sleepy place, and I prefer the city. Aravis itself can seem sadly quiet to me now.

There are benefits to a quiet life. I have more work to do than there are hours of daylight, but the nights are long. The time has come to write down what I've learned. I've studied the notebooks and treatises written by the masters who have gone before me. It is my turn to set down what I have learned and to explain how I learned it. May this work please those with the wit to read it and instruct those with the wish to learn. I have only the ordinary skill at writing, but if I do not at least attempt to set down my experiences, all will go to waste when I am dead.

Waste was something my family could never abide. My parents expected all their children to work, and to work hard, boy and girl alike. To allow us to neglect our wits through insufficient education was folly, and so we were all set to study with Master Nicholas, a schoolmaster engaged to teach the children of the members of the wool merchants guild.

In addition to our hours at school with Master Nicholas, my brothers and I learned everything about the family business, from tending a flock to keeping the accounts. I was not permitted to do any of these things unaccompanied, at any rate not for long, but by the time I was thirteen I had a full understanding of what we Rosamers did for a living and of just how many of us there were. With so many brothers ahead of me to choose the tasks they liked the best, I had to work hard at each thing to learn the work and earn praise for my skill. At that age, it was not yet clear to me what my role would be.

Some families might have stinted a fifth child, boy or girl, but mine was determined to make the best use of each of us, just as our family made a point of making the best use of each part of every sheep, from a hank of fleece to the toughest mutton chop. My mother held me to an even higher standard than my brothers, for in addition to my schooling and my work in our family trade, I was taught how to keep household accounts. I learned what was needed to make sure that we had sufficient food, shelter, and clothing. Aside from the size of the numbers in the ledger, it was not very different from learning the business. Smaller sums, but the work was just as hard.

For the first few years of my life, I displayed no more genius than any child does, though I liked to make pictures with bits of charcoal or chalk or anything else of that nature which came my way. My brothers delighted in teasing me for this, but I learned soon enough that there was an element of envy in their merriment.

Each year at Twelfth Night, my brothers helped Father's apprentices with the revels, sometimes devising masques or plays. When I was fourteen, I began to help with the costumes. This gave my mother false hope. She was well versed in the arts of needlework and would have taught me much had I shown the slightest interest. But I had no use for practicality. To set a sleeve into a gaudy doublet, that it might adorn the Master of the Revels, was worth squinting over for hours. To hem a petticoat, for no better reason than to adorn myself, I considered a waste of time.

This is folly, and one common to young artists. For the same apprentice who will work hours, days, and weeks to design and cast a frippery cloak pin will scorn the pains it takes to make a simple pewter spoon. Look well to the spoons, the tankards, and the porringers, for in the old simplicity is found greater art than in the new style. More art and use in that honest petticoat hem than in a dozen such doublets, run up in haste for holiday attire.

By the time I was a gawky girl of fifteen I had used up the school-master's patience. Master Nicholas presented my parents with an ultimatum. I must either pretend to pay attention to his lessons or find some other use for my time. In any case, I was to stop drawing caricatures on my slate. It distracted the other girls and boys. He suggested I be put to some honest labor. As my brothers were all deeply interested in the family business, there was no need for me to manage accounts. But perhaps, with time and application, I might manage to make a competent shepherdess. With a qualified dog to help me, of course.

There was some merit in this suggestion of his, for I had a strong back and long legs. Many other families would have considered my sturdy frame qualification enough for the outdoor life.

Fortunately, my parents were in no particular hurry to see their youngest out the door. Since he had seen a good many of my caricatures, my father thought Master Nicholas was merely offended by my latest effort at portraying him.

My mother found worth in what Master Nicholas said, however, and the pair of them spent a merry quarter of an hour suggesting trades for me. The thought of me as a nun made them laugh the hardest. I didn't see what was so funny, but I was of an age that seldom saw humor where people of my parents' advanced years did.

When he had wiped his eyes and rested his ribs, Master Nicholas looked across the table at my mother and said, "Hail will be a nun when the king comes home. But I was at school with Angelica Carriera. She has an atelier in Aravis. Shall I write her to see if she has room for another apprentice?"

I gaped at him. Even I had heard of Angelica Carriera. She was a famous painter. The old king himself had paid her to capture his likeness. Her paintings hung in palaces and Master Nicholas knew her? To write to? Why do people never tell one the important things? I made it clear to everyone that this was the most brilliant idea Master Nicholas had ever had.

Mother glanced at Father, who was pretending to poke the fire. "It's too soon."

"Aravis?" Father looked at me "It's too far."

"It's just down the river," I protested. "You go there every year with the woolpack and the timber."

"Only once a year. You're much too young to live in the city all alone."

"Most apprenticeships begin at fourteen," said Master Nicholas. "Though Hail does sometimes seem quite young for her age. She would hardly be along in a studio like Angelica's."

"Madame Carriera may not wish to have another apprentice," said Mother.

"If she is as prosperous as people say, she must keep several apprentices busy just cleaning her brushes," said Father, "I suppose it does no harm to inquire."

• • •

Master Nicholas sent his letter a few days later, and in a month the reply came back. Provisionally, I was acceptable. I was to travel downriver with the next shipment of wool. In Aravis, I might be chosen to join the apprentices who helped clean Madame Carriera's brushes. If I applied myself, and if I behaved myself, well, Madame Carriera would see what she could make of me.

It was a very brief letter, considering how much I read into it. I had an entire filigree of meaning embroidered around each line. To me it all seemed clear beyond possibility of error. My opportunity at Madame Carriera's was a promise of success, for surely there would be no limit to my hard work. I would live in Aravis, the center of the world, and I would learn everything Madame Carriera had to teach me. I would learn all her techniques. I would invent new forms of art. Fortune was assured, and fame would surely follow. Undying admiration would be mine, deservedly, and any student of art would learn my name along with the greatest of painters.

• • •

There are no slower days in life than those between the promise and the performance of one's release into the world. I am better at waiting than I was then (not saying much), but I would not relive those impatient days before my departure for the great world of art. I couldn't survive it now. The strain would kill me. What I wanted, now that I knew at last what it was I wanted, I wanted with every fiber. What I knew, I wished the whole world to know. What I wondered, and in my impatience I wondered about almost everything, I wondered ceaselessly.

I am surprised my family did not disown me during those fretful weeks. Certainly they must have been as glad to see me go as I was to take my leave.

The way to Aravis was a familiar one to my father. The wool trade took him there every year. From Neven, the water route ran down the Ruger to the broader current of the Lida. The Lida, made stronger yet by its union with the sleepy Celle at Ardres, passed between the Folliard Hills to the east and the higher, bleaker Howlet Fells to the west. I had studied the maps at school without interest. From the river, I found every mile exciting.

First there was the woolpack to load. The fleeces were baled and stacked on a raft of logs from the forests around Neven. There was an art to lashing the logs together and a greater art to stacking the bales of fleece. Too high was dangerous, as was too low, and too heavy. Anything else was not economical. With one trip downriver a year, waste was unthinkable. By the time we set out we had the best possible raft with the safest arrangement of bales. My father and his men were responsible for navigating the river. I was not permitted to help. Sitting quietly on the cargo was my job.

My mother and my brothers came to wave us off. I didn't cry. There was nothing to cry about, after all. I was setting forth to seek my fortune, a joyous occasion. It bothered me that my mother wiped her eyes with her white handkerchief more than she waved us on with it. I understand that better now, but I still remember my impatience at her sentiment.

The Ruger is a narrow river. In places it is deep. I had all I could do keeping still, such was my excitement as our craft was shepherded past the difficulties of the current. At the end of the third day, the Ruger flowed into the Lida, and it seemed our pace eased. The river does not run more slowly; it is that the water is wider. As the banks fall back, the world seems to withdraw. Broad water reflects the sky as the horizon drops. Half the world is air. After the hills of Galazon, it seemed flat as a table to me; for the weather was bad, lowering clouds shutting the distance out.

In three more days we came to the great tooth of Ardres, jutting up at the confluence of the Lida and the Arcel. The castle on the rock guarded the whole valley, stone wall within stone wall, rising to slateroofed towers only a shade darker than the sky.

There was a storm that night. We traveled on despite it. Delays ashore could be as bad as any river snag. By morning, the weather had cleared, so we could see the green waves of the Folliard Hills to our east and the raking bleakness of Howlet Fells off in the heights to our west. The river ran colder, it seemed to me, the farther from home we traveled. There were waterfowl in plenty, the familiar ducks and geese and heron of home, and new kinds, birds I couldn't name. They were the birds of the sea. I marveled at the variety of them, the differences in wing and head, markings and mode of flight. What else might the world hold, if it could hold so many things so new to me?

The seagulls were my first sign of the world waiting for me in Aravis. By the time we tied up at the wharf in Shene, I was almost used to them. There was too much more to notice. I couldn't keep still any longer. The very air smelled different, a compound of fish and sweat, for even in the little town of Shene there were more people than I had even seen before. I could hardly keep to my father's heels as we found our way through the crowds toward Aravis, so often were we jostled.

Maps at school meant nothing to me. In Aravis, I longed for one. I was glad to follow my father, but I didn't like not knowing what streets we were on. Our few possessions were left at an inn where Father often stayed when he was in Aravis. How would I ever find my way back there if we were separated? I could probably follow my nose back to the wharf easily enough, but I had no interest in Shene. All my heart was set on finding Madame Carriera.

My father knew the way. Through streets packed with houses as tightly as our raft was packed with wool, he led me past more people than I'd ever dreamed could fit into one place. The noise, the smells, the half steps and haltings all conspired to confuse me, yet only my body was lost. My mind was fixed as a needle toward a lodestone, focused on our destination. The rest was mere detail.

Madame Carriera's house seemed large and high ceilinged to me that first day. There was a distinctive scent to the place, a combination of familiar household smells, lavender and beeswax, but with a sharp overlay I could not identify—until I boiled my first batch of sheep parchment into liquid and combined it with chalk to make gesso. After the bustle of the streets outside, the house was quiet. A girl with red hair showed us the way into Madame Carriera's salon and left us there. After a short wait, the great painter joined us.

At that time Madame Carriera was probably in her middle forties. To me she seemed prodigiously old. She was tiny, and as finely made, as tightly laced, as any lady of fashion, but no one could ever mistake her for an ordinary person. Her eyes were keen, almost piercing. Her merest glance had force, and her hands were a revelation. I was vain of my own hands, which were slender and fairly well shaped. I had recently come to fancy they were proof of my artistic nature. But Madame Carriera's hands rid me of any such foolish notion. Madame Carriera's hands were as swift and sure as a hawk's flight, as elegant as ivory.

My father was a tall man, but well knit and graceful for his size. He loomed over Madame Carriera, who was the picture of courtly grace in black velvet and boned lace, wearing pearls worth our whole season's woolpack.

She looked him up and down, glanced dismissively at me, and demanded, "Where is my earth of cullen?" At our blank expressions, she frowned. "My umber. Nick promised to send some with you. It lies about on the ground where you come from. Or so he claimed in his letter."

"Master Nicholas did entrust me with a parcel for you, Madame Carriera," said Father. He caught himself slouching a little to meet her eyes and drew himself up straight. "But he said it was pigment. Cologne brown. It is with our gear at the Sheepcrook. I will send for it now if you wish. I didn't think city folk went about with parcels when they paid calls."

"It looks like dirt," I said, "and it is very heavy."

She hardly spared me a glance. "The parcel can wait," she said to Father "I see you brought a baggage with you." She smiled at him then, and the stiffness went out of his shoulders as he smiled back. "Nick can be such a pedant. Thank you, then, for troubling to bring me my cologne brown. Earth of cullen is its common name." She turned to me then. "I may teach you to grind my colors for me, girl. And more, if you pay attention. What's your name again? Nick put it in his letter, but my memory grows worse by the day."

"Hail Rosamer."

"Good heavens." She looked at Father. "What were you thinking? Why not give her a sensible name, like Daisy? Or even Maud. She can't help growing up a virago with an extraordinary name like that."

"She's an extraordinary person. She will be a great artist."

I felt my eyes sting with love and pride and embarrassment. I had always known my parents loved me, yet to hear Father speak so to Madame Carriera herself nearly choked me. I treasure the memory now, but when I was fifteen the embarrassment of it nearly killed me.

Madame Carriera sniffed. "Nick thinks she can draw."

"She can do whatever she sets her mind to."

"We'll soon see about That Here, girl." She tossed me a stub of chalk as if it were a sweetmeat and I a dog. "Draw me a circle."

I caught the chalk. Then I looked around the room. Madame Carriera's salon was very elegantly furnished, but there was no sign of artistic activity to be seen. Not so much as a scrap of paper. "Where, ma'am?"

"Anywhere. But I just had the walls done last summer, so leave them alone. The floor is slate. That will do."

If there is one thing every artist's apprentice learns, it is that the hardest shape to draw is a perfect circle. But I was not an apprentice yet. I had no training, and so I did not know enough to worry about my circle. I was an ignorant girl, rawboned and ill-mannered, face hot with embarrassment over my father's pride in me.

So I knew no better than to sit cross-legged at Madame Carriera's feet. I found a spot that looked right to me, and I drew a chalk circle about nine inches in diameter on the well-scrubbed slate tiles.

She inspected the circle in silence. When she spoke at last, she sounded so gloomy that I looked up, fearful that I had done something irretrievably wrong. "It isn't a perfect circle."

I tilted my head and studied it from a fresh angle. "No? But it looks perfect."

"Draw me another."

Her gloom had shaken my confidence, and my second circle wobbled. "Would you like me to try again?"

"No." She helped me to my feet. "That will do. You are willing to serve your apprenticeship with me? It is seven years. Hail."

"You still want me? Even though the second circle was crooked?"

"It is only on the strength of your second circle that I am willing to take you at all. If all your circles were like your first, you'd have nothing to learn from the likes of me."

"But even the first one wasn't perfect."

"Perfection abides in heaven, child. It looked perfect, that's what matters. Reason tells us there must be some flaw, though our eyes cannot perceive it. What is reason but a rumor? It is our eyes we trust." To Father, she said, "If she applies herself, and if she behaves herself, I will instruct her for seven years. And then we shall see."

Copyright © 2000 by Carolyn Stevermer

What People are saying about this

Emma Bull
Draws you in with real people, enchanting detail, and sly wit-and delivers you to the deepest of mysteries�What a fine novel!
Rosemary Edghill
Fans of Pat Wrede and Robin Hobb will love this glitering Renaissance triumph set in a world an angel's wing away from our own. Stevermer brings both hearts and crowns vibrantly to life with mastery and assurance. Reading When the King Comes Home is like paging through a brilliantly illuminated Book of Hours. She's completely outdone herself this time—this is a masterpiece!

Meet the Author

Caroline Stevermer grew up on a dairy farm in southeastern Minnesota. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania with a B.A. degree in the History of Art. Almost twenty years later, she learned to drive a car. Her interests include Mark Twain, baseball, the portrait miniatures of Nicholas Hilliard, and learning how to parallel park. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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When the King Comes Home 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Interesting, well written and believable. The story is very original, the characters nicely done. I can't wait for whatever comes next from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago